Document storage has grown into a sophisticated modern industry, with many features that make it an attractive option for solicitors whose old files are posing a problem

Piles of files in your office may not seem an obvious handicap in a time of economic recession, but could they be preventing you from making the most profitable use of your office space? If you are holding a lot of client files for compliance reasons and you rarely need them close to hand, could it be more cost effective – as well as safer and more efficient – to have them looked after by a dedicated team?

Think “document storage” and the likely image is of a warehouse stacked high with thousands of boxes holding millions of sheets of paper. How secure is such a location? And how long would it take to find and retrieve anything you suddenly need?

In fact, document storage these days, as well as being big business, is extremely high-tech. Browse the websites of companies operating in the field and you will find them offering, in addition to traditional storage, services such as scanning (of sheets of almost any size) and subsequent data storage; secure conversion or storage of microfiche, tape, CDs or computer disks; remote access to digital files; and, when required, secure destruction and shredding of confidential papers – all certified to the client and done in an environmentally friendly way, with paper being sent for recycling.

Even a small number of boxes can be got out of the way, as at least some companies say they will take any quantity (one box to an unlimited number) of boxes from you.

All this, you should find, takes place in an environment that is both high security, combining sophisticated fire and intruder alarm systems with a rapid response team to deal with any alerts, and safer even than the average office vault in offering protection against an outbreak of fire. One service claims, for example, to offer four hours’ protection whereas a vault can be expected to hold out for one and a half hours.

Search and recovery

As for retrieval, the latest barcoding IT means that each individual file or deed can be instantly identified and located. Standard practice is to offer delivery within 24 hours of a request; an express service may be available in addition. Some companies will offer a choice of “deep” or “active” storage, depending on how likely you are to need a file back, and/or an online retrieval request facility, perhaps along with a complete audit trail of who has requested an item and when. You may even be able to visit your supplier’s premises and have the use of a private room to inspect (and copy) your documents there.

Retrieval issues are averted if you opt for digital storage and your provider offers a secure portal through which you can access your files at any time.

Here in Scotland, one group that has invested heavily in recent times to service the legal profession is First Scottish, parent also of Legal Post. Managing director John Yorkston claims that the ability to dispatch retrieved files via Legal Post enables First Scottish to offer considerable cost savings.

Operating out of secure premises in Dalgety Bay, Fife, his company is also well up to speed with current scanning technology and file retrieval systems, offering many of the features mentioned above, and counts the Law Society of Scotland among its clients.

“We have made significant investments in scanning software and equipment”, he asserts. “This now gives us tremendous daily scanning capacity to very high resolutions from size A5 to AO. Also, we have secure scanning portals to allow clients instant access to their documents.”

How would Yorkston identify the business benefits? “Our experience is it is usually much more cost effective, as well as safer and more efficient, to have documents looked after by specialists and a dedicated team. Scanning and digital retrieval, especially through secure web portals, also makes the information available instantly, 24/7 and wherever the client is working from, so it brings document management to new levels of efficiency. Clients use a mixture of scanning and storage, tailoring document management solutions to what suits their business.”

If your old files are taking up expensive space, and sitting in less than ideal conditions, it could be time to take a fresh look at the alternatives.


How long? Your call

Law Society of Scotland guidance (Section E, Division B of the newly consolidated Rules and Guidance) suggests various lengths of time for retention of different categories of files – recommending that for some types of business these be held indefinitely – while stating that where it is not possible to store files electronically without time limit, the onus rests with the solicitor as to whether or not it is safe to dispose of a file in any particular case.

Share this article
Add To Favorites